Police Action In campus at Columbia

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Pro-Palestinian activists gathered at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus in Manhattan’s Upper West Side on Wednesday, where they appeared to have established a small encampment inside the university’s Lowenstein building. The demonstration drew over 50 participants, who were protesting both inside and outside the building. New York City Police officers responded by setting up a perimeter around the area, utilizing barriers to contain the gathering.

Police Action In campus at Columbia
Police Action In campus at Columbia

During the protest, demonstrators could be heard chanting slogans such as “free free Palestine,” while one individual prominently displayed a sign stating “anti-Israel is not antisemitism,” advocating for a ceasefire and calling for the university to divest from certain investments related to Israel.

To ensure the safety of students, Fordham officials issued a warning to the university community through a safety alert on Wednesday, notifying them of the ongoing demonstration at the Lowenstein Center. Additionally, access to the Lowenstein Center was restricted, requiring students, faculty, and staff to present their Fordham ID to enter the campus. This response was likely part of the university’s efforts to manage the situation and maintain safety and security on campus during the demonstration.

 

Nadia L. Abu El-Haj, a professor of anthropology at Columbia University, strongly criticized the university’s leadership for their handling of recent events, particularly their decision to involve law enforcement without first allowing faculty to assist in deescalating the situation.

Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, Professor Abu El-Haj expressed frustration with the administration’s portrayal of recent events. She emphasized the need to set the record straight, especially following Columbia University President Minouche Shafik’s congressional testimony, which Abu El-Haj characterized as political theater that unfairly targeted students and faculty.

According to Abu El-Haj, Shafik’s testimony left students and faculty feeling betrayed, prompting them to organize the encampment on the same day. They believed that the university’s leadership was willing to sacrifice their values and principles for political expediency.

The professor also criticized the university’s approach to negotiations with protesters, describing it as inconsistent and unproductive. She highlighted a lack of genuine cooperation from the administration, which she argued had only served to exacerbate tensions rather than facilitate a meaningful resolution.

Nadia L. Abu El-Haj highlighted the efforts made by a few faculty members who sought to return to campus on Tuesday afternoon to help mediate and negotiate with the university administration. However, she expressed frustration, stating, “They strung us along until we knew that they were bringing the police in,” asserting that the administration had been dishonest throughout the process.

Abu El-Haj emphasized that for weeks, faculty members who had established relationships with the protesting students were denied the opportunity to intervene and help deescalate the situation. She criticized the administration for its refusal to allow these faculty members to play a constructive role in resolving the conflict.

In response to the recent events at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin declared that the campus had resolved the “illegal activity” associated with the pro-Palestinian encampment, resulting in approximately 30 protesters being cited by the police. Mnookin assured that peaceful protests adhering to campus guidelines could resume freely, both on that day and in the future. This statement came shortly after police were authorized to remove the encampment from campus grounds.

Mnookin explained that the protesters were cited after they disregarded a warning to remove their tents from Library Mall.

“Every individual was given the opportunity to move away from the tent area and continue peaceful protest without further police engagement,” Mnookin stated.

She added, “A set of individuals, including some faculty and staff, obstructed law enforcement efforts to remove the tents and were cited.”

According to Mnookin, several others who resisted police action or “otherwise interfered with the operation” were arrested.

Mnookin addressed concerns about reports of harassment based on identity, stating, “A small number of blatantly antisemitic actions on the grounds of the encampment have been credibly reported, but we have no evidence that any members of our UW–Madison community engaged in this odious activity.”

She also mentioned that the university’s decision to act was influenced by the presence of non-community members, including “several highly aggressive individuals” reportedly among them.

 

Emory University reported that on Sunday, the Emory Police Department (EPD) arrested a convicted felon named Derek Zika, aged 35, from Statesville, North Carolina. Zika had traveled across state lines to reach the university’s campus during ongoing protests.

The arrest occurred on the Emory Quad in the afternoon, where Zika was found carrying knives and a pepper spray canister, according to the university’s release. Subsequently, police obtained a search warrant for Zika’s car on Monday, discovering an axe, a hatchet, and two knives in a bag containing survival gear.

Zika faced multiple charges, including criminal trespass, obstructing a law enforcement officer, possession of a weapon in a school safety zone, and crossing state lines with weapons, intoxicants, or drugs. After his arrest, Zika was transported to Dekalb County Jail and later released on bail, as per jail records. Currently, Zika does not have a listed attorney.

The arrest coincided with EPD issuing six criminal trespass warnings to protesters suspected of recent campus vandalism, as stated by the university. EPD confirmed that none of these individuals were affiliated with Emory University. This incident underscored concerns about external individuals engaging in disruptive behavior on campus during the protests.

 

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik addressed the campus community in a letter released on Wednesday, following the clearance of protests by police, describing the situation as a “drastic escalation” that pushed the university to a critical point.

Shafik emphasized that the months-long protests had created a disruptive and unsafe environment for everyone on campus, prompting the university to take action. With the backing of the University’s Board of Trustees, Shafik made the decision to request intervention from the New York City Police Department to end the protests, particularly those at Columbia’s Hamilton Hall and the encampments.

During a news conference on Wednesday, the NYPD reported that approximately 300 protesters were arrested overnight at Columbia University and City College of New York.

Expressing a sense of regret and sadness, Shafik acknowledged the gravity of the situation, stating, “I know I speak for many members of our community in saying that this turn of events has filled me with deep sadness. I am sorry we reached this point.” This statement reflected the university’s acknowledgment of the challenging circumstances that led to the intervention.

 

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